High Fidelity (2000) — OK, let’s talk about your taste in music

“Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”

Kyle’s rating: 33rpm (Episode 3 of The Cusack Experience)

Kyle’s review: The movie so nice that on the big screen I saw it twice. Opening day I went to High Fidelity and was blown away, it was so great. The following Friday I took my mom to the show and decided her movie would be too crowded, and I also wanted to see this again. After seeing it, leaving the theater to buy the soundtrack, and thinking about it all week, I had to know if it was as cool the second time around as I was hoping it would be. I didn’t want to wait to own it to find out it only had opening day hipness.

I wasn’t disappointed. High Fidelity, the unconventional story of a young Chicago music store owner’s quest for love and contentment by sifting through the his life and past loves, is cool because of one man: John Cusack. Yeah, the supporting cast is great, he has a lot of records, blah blah blah. But this is Cusack’s movie, he even breaks the fourth wall and talks to us a lot, and without his innate likeability and honest performance we would think Rob, Cusack’s character, is just a gigantic creepy bastard.

With Cusack in charge, Rob is just a good guy who isn’t sure what he wants, and just screws up along the way to get it. Rob swears at his mother, he lashes out at his ex-girlfriend who has recently left him and keeps coming back to pick up her stuff, he attacks his fattest record store employee, and he smokes. A lot. Plus, through confessions and conversations with old girlfriends we find out that Rob hasn’t been the best of boyfriends, and while he hasn’t gotten physical with anyone he has left some psychological damage in his wake (don’t worry, it’s all still funny. It’s just dark humor). But again, thanks to Cusack’s vulnerability and the clear maturation he goes through, we the audience know that he’s basically a pretty decent guy just trying to figure this life-thing out the best way he knows how. Too bad about all that damn smoking, but oh well!

The main plot is Rob’s girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle[!]) leaving him, sending him into a spiral of despair that will lead him to reminisce about and contact the women on his “Top 5 break-ups of all time” personal list. Rob will reorganize his humongous collection of LPs (his apartment is basically all records and a bathroom), chat idly with his musically-condescending store employees, figure out what he wants to do and who he wants to do it with, and make a few compilation tapes along the way.

See this movie! It’s not all laugh-out loud funny, but it’s very charming and sweet. Cusack helped write the script so you get the sense a lot of the personal philosophy and feelings Rob has are the same as Cusack himself, and that helps us like him even more. I especially liked Hjejle as his recent ex, Joan Cusack was pretty funny in her bit part, and the two employees (especially over-inflated symbolically and figuratively Jack Black) perfectly encapsulate the mannerisms and quirks of every male music store worker I’ve ever encountered. No other movie has ever made me want to run a music store, buy a leather jacket, and take up smoking like this one has, and for that it gets a hundred million stars! Cusack rules!

Andie’s rating: You spin me right round, baby, right round like a record baby, right round round round.

Andie’s review: I love John Cusack. He’s cute and sweet and dorky and I love him.

High Fidelity is also a pretty good movie. I can identify with Rob SO much. Firstly because I rank everything. I started doing this WAY before High Fidelity was even a concept and I also have been doing lists of five, so that was really weird for me to see. Like I have my Top 5 Slow Songs and Top 5 Scary Movies and Top 5 Old Hollywood Movie Stars I’d like to Sleep With. Secondly because I totally know how the bad breaks up are. I have five (there’s that magic number again) ex-boyfriends who are either married or on their way to getting married and it’s all to The Woman They Left Me For. That makes me feel special.

But I digress… Aside from cute sweet adorable John Cusack, I love the two weirdos he works with. Jack Black is of course everybody’s new favorite and I think he’s very funny, but sometimes he got a little annoying. I really liked the other guy, whose name I cannot recall. He was a perfect shy, strange little man and I was glad he hooked up with Sara Gilbert. Tim Robbins is also really good at being horribly creepy. If that’s a compliment. I also love the way Rob had to revisit all his old flames. I’ve totally done that and he’s right, it does make you feel better.

I think what makes this movie so great is that it’s just about this regular guy. He’s insecure and he’s vulnerable and he’s quirky and he’s like NORMAL people. He has problems and he deals with them. It’s great. I also love how he and Laura get back together. Nothing like a funeral to bring a family together. And when they have sex in the car, that is fabulous. I read once that the most common thing people do when they’re grieving, after cry, is have sex. (Which explains why everybody gets it on in Drinking Games, Justin.)

So anyway, go rent High Fidelity. You will not be disappointed. If you can’t get enough of John Cusack but you’ve seen Say Anything and Grosse Pointe Blank, then you should check out Eight Men Out. It’s fantastic. Make it a double feature with High Fidelity, it’ll be a good night.

Clare’s rating: It has a good beat and you can dance to it.

Clare’s review: Clare’s Top Five Favorite Things About High Fidelity:

1) Um, duh. John Cusack’s in it. (although I’d like to shoot whoever the hair/make up person was. What were they thinking?)

2) I Love Jack Black and You Should Too

3) Lily Taylor

4) The Soundtrack

5) Compilation tapes as an avenue for expressing one’s emotions is something I fully support.

Additionally, I have what I think is probably one of the worst break up stories on record that involves a mix tape as its central prop. So I could totally get behind the plot. It was also refreshing to spend an entire story investigating the myriad of ways men sabotage their own happiness and blame it on everyone and everything around them but their own inability to figure out that the world doesn’t revolve around their every minuscule desire. It was nice in sort of an “only in the movies” kind of way that Rob figures out why being in a committed relationship with someone who loves him is actually a really rewarding experience and not some sort of suffocating death trap. Of course, it IS only a movie.

Nancy’s rating: Five out of five… lists made of fives.

Nancy’s review: For tonight’s episode of Nancy Watched Too Much Today, I’d like to try a slightly different tactic than my normal movie-reviewing method.

Explanation on my renting of High Fidelity — I saw it several years ago and didn’t love it. Keep in mind my age (duly noted repeatedly by elder mutant staff; thanks for keeping me in check, guys. Thanks.) and so several years ago I was a in middle school and my opinions were not to be valued. It’s weird how when people get older, years seem less important. A fifty-four year old’s all, “Three years ago I was fifty-one. No biggie”, and I say, “Holy awkward phases, Batman! Three years ago I was fourteen! WEIRD!” That seems so long ago/so recent.

Anyway. The Queen Of All Tangent’s general consensus is, I kept hearing people talk about High Fidelity all the time, and I knew I loved it. I knew my opinions had changed and I knew this was a movie that I would enthrall me and entertain me to the fullest extent. It’s like Pretty Woman: I’ve never seen it, but I just know it’s one of my favorite movies. Julia Roberts has big poofy hair and Richard Gere loves her, but can’t, but totally does, but he can’t, and I hear there’s something adorable involving a white limo at the end.

So I did a little movie-nerd-girl experiment and whipped out my little notepad, pen in hand, and said I’m going to find things I don’t like about this movie! Why? I don’t know. It doesn’t prove anything. I guess you could say I was trying to justify my opinion from three years ago by pointing out plot holes. But to be honest I think I just disliked it because I saw it primarily because of Jack Black and his appearance here, although totally bitchin’, was not what I expected, and the characters weren’t as loveable as I expected.

It was as hilarious as I needed it be, I hated Ian and I hated having parents walking in on the awkward sex scenes. At the point where Rob makes his most romantic list mentioning, my dad actually walked in and said, “Why are you watching this romantic drivel crap?” Those were my dislikes, but it was all of that formed out of my high expectations of shenanigan hilarity while referencing punk rock mixed in with me being in middle school and too awkward to handle sex scenes. Not to say I don’t giggle nowadays, but at least I have my own TV to prevent awkward parental encounters.

Here are my five (yeah, five! Look at my luck!) little tiffs with High Fidelity:

1) Rob can be a straight-up creepy ass jerk. Like, I know it’s important to represent characters as realistic as possible, and they did maintain a good amount of likeable qualities, but the four-point of break-up-ship rip me apart with love/hate for our protagonist, even while he’s explaining them. I note he never justifies the affair, and that bothers.

2) Why, what is the fricken reasoning Laura has, for IAN? I understand that filmmakers were making a totally hateable character, but this time I think they gave up realism. No one is that much of a sketchy patchouli bastard, and where is the attraction for Laura? She’s a smart, cool lady and there’s no reason for her to go from an intelligent, unfortunately depressed to but still deep-loving Rob to a pretentious hippie blagh.

3) Rob doesn’t seem to have wicked cool friends. Certain facts lead us to believe he’s hip and such; par example — he used to be a DJ, and he had an affair. And yet our current depiction of Rob’s life leads us to believe that he doesn’t have any outside contacts short of his mother, the musical morons and Laura. How did he meet another woman outside of Laura? (please disclude the fact that he hooks up with the singer chick — that was out of spite, and spite does magnificent things to a persons social abilities) Granted, he’s going through severe post-break-up depression, but ya know, shouldn’t some cool dudes be calling him? Maybe they did, and the editors cut it out to add to the feeling of extreme loneliness that Rob was going through. I just forgot for a second that Rob was a fictional character and this was NOT, in fact, The Real World – The Movie. Which explains Bruce Springsteen randomly appearing in his apartment. And I just thought The Boss was wicked creepy!

4) If I ever met the casting directors of this movie, I would have a conniption. A co. nnip. tion. First of all, Joan Cusack played THAT WOMAN more horrendously, to the extent that I hated her more than, yes that’s right, Ian. And ABOUT IAN! They just purposefully ripped open my heart and crapped on my “Love Of Tim Robbins” section. I understand it took tremendous talent to play an icker like Ian, but ugh! I was mad! And secondly, I can’t really complain, because Jack Black played it to a T, but I hated his character. Maybe it’s an abundance of dudes I know like, but it’s tough to see a dude you really sincerely think is THE S*** play someone you’ve met eighty times and their shtick already wore off. I wish they picked someone relatively unknown and obscure, like Harold Beringker. Then I could have been impartial to him, and now I’m like Jack Black! Whaddya doin! But that’s my weird little opinion.

I feel dirty now.


5) I kinda wish Vincent and Justin were more likeable and had more of a role. That’s just a small part. Okay, maybe I copped the last one to make it five. Whatever.

So now that that’s all done, I can say that I feel this a damn good movie. I love movies with little things, and this movie has the little things. For example, I love Dick and I love Anna Moss and I love how Dick and Anna Moss love each other.

It can be really insightful, in sweet little discreet ways, to relationships and how people should handle them. Like, I know I’m just a dumb seventeen year old girl who knows nothing about relationships and this awesome little tidbits of genius life advice won’t apply to me for at least ten years or so, but it just makes me feel warm and fuzzy to know there’s some wisdom I’ll come across later in life that will make things nice and okay.

It’s a great movie, really; I just felt like taking the road less traveled and pointing out its flaws.

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